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Rock in Rio … in Vegas

In the spirit of the many other international “cities” within the city (Paris, New York, Venice, etc.), Rock in Rio has come to Las Vegas. The long-running Brazilian festival, which has also staged events in Spain and Portugal, has been constructing a permanent outdoor venue at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, adjacent to Circus Circus, to facilitate a large-scale music festival that will take place during two weekends this May.

May 8 will mark the start of Rock Weekend at the festival, with artists including No Doubt, Gary Clark Jr., Metallica, Linkin Park and many more appearing on three stages (Main Stage, Sunset Stage, Electronica Stage). The following weekend, pop acts will perform, and the 80,000-capacity venue will host Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, John Legend and dozens more. The project also includes three “Rock Streets,” based around international themes, with stages for scheduled “street performers.”

The audio system and installation for this impressive project is headed by Maurice Hughes, who has been Rock in Rio’s production manager since 2001. “Ever since the first version in 1985, [festival founder] Roberto Medina has said the festival would go out to the world,” Hughes says. “We went to Portugal in 2004, and from there to Spain. Then this opportunity in Las Vegas turned up, and it’s exciting because of how close the site is to the main strip. Normally a site this big is on the outskirts of a town, but we’re in the middle of everything, and there’s a monorail station right beside us.”

Equipment for Rock in Rio Las Vegas is being provided by Gabi Ferreira’s Gabisom Audio Equipment (Sao Paolo, Brazil); the company also supplies gear for the festival’s events in Rio, Portugal and Spain. “From 2013 in Rio, we’ve been using the JBL VTX system,” Hughes says. “Everybody who plays the festival has been 100-percent happy with it.”

The main system, which is modeled on the one used in Rio, features 120 VTX V25 loudspeakers (60 per side), and 60 VTX S28 flown subs (30 per side). An auxiliary sub system includes VTX G38 stacks. All is powered by Crown amps and controlled via the Dolby Lake system. Gabisom also provides 24 d&b M2 wedge monitors, plus J8 sidefills and B2 subs.

Front of house at RIR Vegas’ main stage is managed by engineer Peter Racy, though many of the main artists will arrive with their own FOH and monitor engineers. To accommodate the needs of a variety of acts, Gabisom sends several consoles: Yamaha PM5DRHs, Avid Profiles, and a pair of Midas Heritage 3000s for engineers who prefer to mix analog. The festival’s main monitor engineer is Fernando Ricca.

The audio rigs are reasonably close together within the 37-acre development to allow fans to focus on any or all of the stages. “Everything is scaled so that you can see every act if you want to,” Hughes says.

The project also, of course, includes extensive infrastructure that the public will never see: “Underground ducts and fiber-optic cabling carries signal and power all over the park; everything is connected,” Hughes says. “If you’re in a VIP tent on the opposite end of the park, you can watch what’s happening on the stages. We installed delay towers, as well. And the bathrooms! This is a new thing for our festivals this year. There will be—not all, but some—permanent bathrooms, so we’re really giving the public a treat.” Fans who frequent music festivals know that this is no joke…

And away from the 80k-capacity crowd, the Rock Streets offer three different flavors of civilization. “Each of these Rock Streets is a little complex,” Hughes says. “It really looks like an authentic street with shops, bars and food. Right in the middle there’s a central stage where we have a little P.A., and along the verandas, on top of the houses, we have reinforcements, so you can hear what’s going on that stage all the way down the street.

“In the past, we’ve done just one Rock Street, with one central theme to it,” Hughes continues. “This is the first time we’ve done three. The first idea was inspired by New Orleans, so the architecture, the scenic work, is all based on the French Quarter. Then we have another that’s ‘Europe,’ based on London and Ireland. And the other, of course, is Brazil, so there’s quite a bit of culture going on there.”

For a complete lineup and schedule of Rock in Rio Las Vegas performances, visit